City Council Election Question #2 – Homeless in Burbank

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As part of myBurbank’s Election 2022 coverage, we have asked all of the candidates in the three races some tough questions to help voters decide who deserves their vote.

In the race for City Council, there are seven candidates, and we asked ten tough questions. We told the candidates they could write as much as they wanted, and we did not edit their responses in any way. We rotated the order after every question.

Today is question 2 of 10 – Homeless in Burbank: Do you think Burbank’s homeless plan is effective? What do you think is good about it, and if not, what would you do to change it?

Zizette Mullins

Homelessness is an extremely complex social dilemma that impacts the quality of life in our community, both for the homeless and non-homeless residents.

Homelessness is an issue that is facing every community in this state, and in most places across the country. This is an issue that requires a well-conceived well-coordinated and compassionate response on the part of the city. While Burbank has been reasonably effective in addressing the issue to date, further efforts are necessary to more effectively address this issue in the future. The following actions are necessary:

  • Further expand to scope and impact of the existing “Streets Plus” program in partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement District.  The “Streets Plus” program has proved very effective aiding homeless people in getting into the resource pools that exists for them. This further utilizes a platform that has proven to be successful as well as less confrontational and less traumatic than other forms of interaction with this community.
  • Allocate additional resources to the Burbank Police Department (BPD’s) existing Mental Health Evaluation Teams. BPD’s Mental Health Evaluation Teams have proved very effective as well in coordinating assistance and de-escalation when residents and visitors with mental health issues come into conflict with members of the BPD. Since many of the residents and visitors with mental health issues that come into conflict with members of the BPD may also be homeless, the Mental Health Evaluation Teams have a first responder’s access to such individuals and have a firsthand opportunity to bring those individuals into the resource pool that exists for such people.
  • Burbank is fortunate to have some of the most responsive homelessness assistance agencies in our region, such as Burbank Temporary Aid Center (BTCA), Home Again LA, Family Service Agency and the Salvation Army. The City can bolster its ability to address these homelessness issues much more effectively and economically by expanding its partnerships with the organizations who have years of experience in providing the resources that most successfully lead to positive outcomes for our homeless population.
  • We need to be more effective in bolstering resources from the state and county to be utilized in Burbank to address our homelessness issues, and with the mental health issues that are related to much of the homeless population. As a City Council Member, I will make securing additional funding from the County for homelessness and mental health issues here in Burbank a major priority.

Nikki Perez

As someone who works on the ground floor of the homelessness crisis every single day, I don’t think our city’s homelessness plan is effective at all. I applaud the efforts led by Councilmember Schultz, supported by Councilmember Frutos, to reject the proposed five-year homelessness plan for Burbank. The plan brought to us by a consulting company, which had delivered a much more thorough plan to Culver City previously, lacked detail and substance by not providing detailed metrics and a timeline for the proposed goals. 

I would say the plan is a good start, but needs to be changed to include specific deadlines and step-by-step descriptions for how we will actually resolve issues. For example, the plan states many goals such as “Working together to implement the Homelessness Plan with our community partners” and lists those partners, but it does not state how this collaboration would happen. Would this be through workgroups, service coordination, or sharing of funds? By what timeline would this occur?

Homelessness is a complex and multifaceted issue involving economic, physical, and mental health, family, and educational challenges for individuals. I know personally that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to homelessness.

As a Nonprofit Program Manager for an organization that focuses on addressing homelessness in the Valley, I deal with coordinating local government agencies and nonprofit partners to address the individual needs of homeless families in order to get them off of the streets and into permanent housing. It’s a model and experience that I would bring with me to Council to develop our own plans in partnership with the amazing nonprofits we have in Burbank. 

Sharon Springer

So, far, the steps we’ve taken are having a positive impact on reducing homelessness as our count has declined 9%.  There is so much more to do.  What do you think is good about it, and if not, what would you do to change it?  The collaboration between the various City departments, religious institutions, BPD, FPD, our nonprofits and the compassion of our residents is good.  We need more mental health professionals interacting with our unhoused, every day.  I support adding them to our Plan.

Our Housing Department, nonprofits and Landlord/Tenant Commission work hard to keep people housed, so that homelessness can be avoided.  Project Hope, Senior Nutrition and other senior services help fill needs and judge the vulnerability of our seniors and disabled.  Intervention, Adult Protective Services and other help can be called in. 

https://www.burbankca.gov/burbanks-response/homelessness-plan  City Council approved the Burbank Homelessness Plan and the City proactively works with our homeless population to house them, provide needed services, get them on their feet, and integrate them back into their families and society.  Burbank has engaged StreetPlus and through this collaboration over 100 of our unhoused residents have been reunited with families or relocated into housing.  Burbank works closely with Home Again LA, Ascencia, and Burbank Temporary Aid Center to help our unhoused residents. 

Burbank is moving forward with a Tiny Homes Village.  The Village is proposed to have 27 units with capacity for 48 to 50 adult individuals.   

Interesting article – less than ⅓ of homeless will accept group shelter.  I think we’re on the right track with a Tiny Homes Village and wraparound services. 
https://www.rand.org/news/press/2022/05/04.html

In September 2021 Burbank opened the SAFE program which provides a location for homeless adults to store their possessions while they are being provided case management and wrap-around services from local partners such as the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and the Salvation Army, which oversees the program.  There is capacity for 60 people to store their possessions at the SAFE.

Tamala Takahashi

While we are fortunate in Burbank to have a moderately low number of homeless residents, we clearly have more work to do to get to functional zero: the number of unhoused individuals is lower than the number of housing options available.

Burbank has done quite a bit in the past few years to reduce our homeless count and support the folks who are still without housing.

• increased supportive services through nonprofits such as Home Again LA, BTAC, FSA, Ascencia, and others

• new storage facilities available so folks can keep their belongings safe and off the street

• introduction and expansion of Streets Plus, Mental Health Evaluation Team, and available social worker through the library and parks and rec

The next steps that can improve our local support even further:

• a homelessness and housing coordination center, with one entry point for all services. This single entry point will be easier for folks to find, easier to do outreach to the community, will be more likely to match folks to the appropriate support they need, and create efficiencies in care and funding.

• support of the tiny homes project, to provide safe and supportive interim housing. This is particularly important for our most vulnerable populations such as women, youth, disables, LGBTQ+, domestic violence victims, and veterans.

• rental subsidies and incentive programs for low cost rehousing. In addition to having these programs, it’s also important to make a concerted effort to reach out to landlords who are willing to take the subsidies, so we have a list of units available and the subsidies do not go unused.

• more mental health care support, in particular addiction and medication support. Los Angeles and other cities across the country have started programs to include a psychiatrist along with their street teams to be able to administer and prescribe medication. It’s also important to have easy to access, low cost mental health and medical care to make it easier for folks to stay on prescribed medications.

• Lastly, prevention is the most important part of having a proactive plan for homelessness, and should be an integral part of the housing and homelessness coordination center.

Here is a link to the city’s current homelessness plan: https://www.burbankca.gov/burbanks-response/homelessness-plan

Carmenita Helligar

I would start by meeting each individual where they are on a human level.  Then separating out all of our homeless residents into groups based on why they are experiencing homelessness. If it is because they are foster care students that have recently turned 18 and “aged out” of their homes then we need to find the correct services for them. If it’s a LGBTQIA resident who were asked to leave their homes by their guardians then we have to make sure they receive proper services. The same would be true for our Veterans, our mentally ill, disabled and residents suffering in a domestic violence situation. Burbank needs to look at countries like Finland that have programs that are working to end homelessness. And being very successful at it. By separating our residents out it will help us to be proactive in creating a steady pipeline to success.